Vera Pauw chose this opponent as she wanted to test her Irish team. Well that certainly worked as a Belgium side ranked 17th in the world provided a tough contest in the King Baudouin Stadium.
Ireland matcher their hosts in all areas but their failure to score – as well as conceding one – ultimately saw them fall short in terms of the result, but score high in terms of the performance.
The deadlock was broken on 14 minutes when Tine De Caigny reacted quickest to get in front of her marking and direct an in-swinging free-kick in from close range.
There was little between the two teams up to that point but Belgium were dangerous on the counter attack as they pushed their wing-backs forward at every opportunity.
Ireland had passage of good play and should have benefitted from a breakaway at the half-way line, but Ruesha Littlejohn was fouled before she could play the decisive pass.
The offside flag then denied Kyra Carusa after breaking in behind the Belgian backline but the best chance on goal came from Heather Payne on 39 minutes when she cut inside and fired directly at the opposition goalkeeper.
Almost straight after the restart Katie McCabe could have earned a penalty when she tumbled under pressure inside the box, but the referee opted not to award a spot kick.
On 61 minutes, Courtney Brosnan pushed a shot from De Caigny wide when the same player should have converted an earlier chance. It was a rare moment when Ireland looked under real pressure.
Littlejohn forced the best from Belgian goalkeeper Odeurs with a curling free-kick on 78 minutes with what was Ireland’s best chance up to that point.
Denise O’Sullivan set substitute Rianna Jarrett free in the final passage of the game but the Wexford native was unable to get enough power behind her shot. And with that Ireland slipped to a narrow defeat.
Belgium: Odeurs; Deloose (Wijnants 65), De Neve (Onzia 20), Tysiak; Cayman, Missipo, Biesmans, Vanhaevermaet, Delacauw (Vanmechelen 65), De Caigny; Wullaert.
Republic of Ireland: Brosnan; Murphy (O’Gorman 46), O’Riordan, Caldwell, Walsh (Quinn 83), McCabe; Connolly (Nolan 74), O’Sullivan, Littlejohn (Jarrett 83); Payne (Molloy 67), Carusa (Whelan 67).
Referee: Lizzy Van Der Helm (Netherlands).